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Thriving on Chaos – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

As we’re more than half way through 2021 and those of us in Australia enter a new financial year amidst lockdown, the covid chaos of the past 18 months remains a challenge. 

Like many, I recently moved to a home office after selling my business premises. It took ages to clear bookshelves as I fell into the trap of glancing over highlighted passages of books that had helped my career; and couldn’t bear to part with copies signed by authors I knew. Since my days as an executive with IBM, I admired the no-nonsense, energetic delivery of former McKinsey management guru, Tom Peters who wrote the New York Times #1 best-seller, In Search of Excellence.  We met at a conference when I started out as an author and speaker. Over 20 years later, I dusted off his lesser-known tome; Thriving on Chaos. Although written after the 1987 stock market crash, the title is equally relevant today.

Catherine DeVrye and Tom Peters
Catherine DeVrye and Tom Peters

The inside jacket flap states:

“Everywhere and every day, managers confront shattering and accelerating change…in a chaotic new world.”

Hmmm, sound familiar? I haven’t had a chance to re-read the entire book but some chapter headings are just as applicable today in what Peters labelled:

Prescriptions for a World Turned Upside Down:

Inset: Thriving on Chaos book by Tom Peters

Not every chapter is as relevant but most sound practices stand the test of time. So too, I’m reminded of Peter Drucker who, in 1954, published The Changing World of the Executive. Although that was decades before I attended Harvard University, his legendary quote was prominent in our leadership curriculum:

  • Achieving flexibility by empowering people
  • Use self-managing teams
  • Learning to love change
  • Reconceive the middle managers role
  • Decentralise information, authority & strategic planning
  • Master paradox

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Yes, change is constant. In my own book, Chapter 14 of Hot Lemon & Honey – Reflections for Success in Times of Change is titled:

“Change is inevitable. Learning from change is optional!”

Peter Drucker passed away in 2005, aged 95 and Tom Peters turns 78 this year and still actively comments on Twitter with his trademark candour. Amidst some of the fads of self-proclaimed ‘thought leaders’ of today, don’t we need sustainable wisdom that stands the test of time?

Timeless! I love my Kindle but sorting through those physical bookshelves left me with a lingering sense of lingering déjà vu—that sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In this current age of covid chaos, will your decisions be based on a trendy whim or on sustainable wisdom? Will you be a victim or a victor of change? Those choices are entirely yours and I’m sure you’ll choose wisely.

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Posted in The world @work

Tough nut or fair, but firm?

I’m often accused of being a ‘tough nut’. I think I’m firm but fair. I’m frustrated by underperformers, people missing targets and sloppy work practices. Sometimes I feel I’m painted as some sort of ogre, and now finally, I know why. Apparently, nearly 50% of Australian organisations feel that ‘close enough is good enough’.

The Study of Australian Leadership by the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Employment paints a rather grim picture of our workplaces, particularly the rigour we apply to measuring and meeting performance targets. It reads as though the world @work in Australia could do with a rocket up the interior.

With one in three businesses not giving employees any key performance indicators to do their job, is it any surprise that as a nation we’re slipping in performance outcomes?

Let me pose some of the questions that arose from this study.

Do you have Key Performance Indicators for every person in every role in your organisation? Are those KPIs being measured? And are those people in those roles (remember, they’re our most valuable assets), being managed and developed to meet their KPIs?

Are you providing all the leadership and management training your future senior executives need to become brilliant leaders? Or are you hoping that because they’re good in the job they currently fill, they’ll be great a step or two up?

And can we also find better ways to spend the $56 billion a year, the estimated waste in completing non-essential administrative tasks? How often are conventions retained because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’?

I’m finally having my day in the sun. Close enough is not good enough.

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Posted in The world @work